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Trade

The Nuts and Bolts of Trade: Stepping up to Manufacturing in the Development Ladder

John Wilson's picture

With the global recovery slow to pick up speed, the latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) isn’t exactly an uplifting read. However, for those of us with an eye on the developing world there are some bright spots: the low-income-countries (LICs) in Africa, for example, have returned to their pre-crisis growth rates and their economies are expected to expand by a respectable 6.5 percent in 2012. 

Despite this seemingly good news, there are some dark clouds on the horizon. The WEO attributes the quick rebound to the fact that the African LICs were, “largely shielded from the global financial crisis owing to their limited integration into global manufacturing and financial networks.”  Although limited international exposure is a boon in the short-term, it also signals trouble down the road.

On Aid and Growth – reflections ahead of Busan

Finn Tarp's picture

Not a month goes by without some sort of bad news about foreign aid. Examples of incompetence , abuse of funds by corrupt leaders, and distorted incentives abound. These stories fuel a deep skepticism of foreign aid. In this view, perverse effects dominate – and end up weakening, rather than encouraging, growth and development. If one accepts this view, then it is logical to turn off the poisoned tap of foreign aid. But are such views well founded?

The answer is no.

Aid for Trade in a World of Shifting Tectonic Plates

John Wilson's picture

Last week, President Zoellick gave a speech at George Washington University in which he outlined his vision of how the aid agenda should adapt to what he described as “shifting tectonic plates,” which has seen the world change dramatically since 1944 when the Bretton Woods system was established. This shift has created a world in which developing countries are now the drivers of the world economy while the developed world is facing severe economic headwinds.

In Zoellick’s vision of a “world beyond aid,” international assistance would be “integrated with—and connected to—global growth strategies, fundamentally driven by investment and entrepreneurship. The goal would not be charity, but mutual interest in building more poles of growth.”

Trade is Central to LDC Growth?

John Wilson's picture

It is not surprising that trade policy -- as it relates to economic growth – has not figured prominently in the development agendas of least developed countries (LDCs).  This is mostly due to the fact that key issues, such as health, clean water, conflict and war have dominated attention and driven debate and discussion– and rightly so. 
But what about trade as an engine of growth to help drive down poverty – to help address broader development goals?

 
The good news story on trade and the LDCs is often ignored. Bad news stories and editorials (along with blog posts in on-line media) sell newspapers and make for splashy television and video clips on YouTube. This is what dominates the stories and headlines. 

March Madness or Spring Awakening?

John Wilson's picture

APEC and New Beginnings in Trade

The first Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM I) of Asia-Pacific Economics Cooperation (APEC) concluded earlier this month in Washington D.C. The APEC 2011 agenda now swings into full action. The member economies in the region are looking for ways to reaffirm APEC’s reputation for innovative economic integration initiatives – and the means by which to stave off new hiccups in the region’s economic recovery.  In particular, the new APEC Supply Chain Connectivity Initiative (SCI) holds real promise as a dynamic successor to APEC’s successful Trade Facilitation Action Plans, which resulted in significant trade cost reductions across the region. 
 

As a testament to the dynamism and ambition behind the trade-related policy goals of APEC – the United States, as APEC 2011 Chair, and the World Bank are working with APEC to build a platform to expand trade through research, data, and capacity building – with direct participation of private sector firms. Fedex is with us in this new venture. Is this March madness – yet another attempt to forge alliances where goals are shared but sustaining momentum proves tough?  Or is it a spring awakening that data, research, and direct partnerships with firms to build in this area provides the real anchor for taking action to assist developing countries tackle trade costs at their source?  I suggest it is the latter.

Developing Countries, Trade Openness and Growth

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Debates over the relationship between trade openness and growth have been going on for around 160 years. A key aspect of that debate is how important growth is for poor countries as they strive to catch up with the best-of-the best in a competitive world. For openness to succeed, you must first put in place ports, roads and other building blocks for prosperity, and you need well functioning bureaucracy to help build the foundation for a strong trade sector. Passionate free-trader Arvind Panagariya, Columbia University Economics Professor and Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy, spoke eloquently about this at his February 16 Development Economics (DEC) Lecture at the World Bank. His research has entailed cross-country case studies of what he terms ‘debacles’ and ‘successes’ in Asia, Africa and beyond. On the one hand, Panagariya admitted that free trade is no panacea to overcome stagnation and he acknowledged that trade liberalization has failed to catalyze and sustain growth in many instances. On the other, he argued that there are many more examples of countries failing to stimulate growth through protectionism.  Panagariya expressed skepticism about industrial policy, but cautioned that its presence cannot prove either the beneficial or harmful impact of openness on growth. You can watch the interview with Professor Panagariya here.

A New Year’s Resolution: Closing the Gap on Trade Research

John Wilson's picture
 Photo: istockphoto.com

New Year’s resolutions are always of the lofty – but often short-lived kind.  I will go to the gym more often, lose more weight, or volunteer more often than I do now.  One resolution made by a number of  us in the Research Group of the Bank – and elsewhere, has been to find a way to get more people excited about investing in data collection and analysis on trade.  I recognize this is not the most glamorous of topics at any time of the year – but nonetheless a resolution as important as any made each year for decades as the calendar turns another page.

Here is why 2011 is different and resolutions made can be kept, however, and why data and research should be high on anyone’s development and trade agenda.
There were a number of high level dialogues in 2010 and 2011 related to global finance, trade, and development issues.  These included the High Level Summit on the MDG’s in September 2010 and the G20 Summit in Seoul in November 2010.  These events provided important opportunities -- in the post-crisis environment – to inform priorities going forward on aid effectiveness and trade.  The President of the Bank, Mr. Zoellick, outlined in October 2010 -- in a very high profile speech at Georgetown University – a new vision of development economics which included new ways of looking at and advancing research tied to make aid more effective and inclusive.

Llegar al fondo de la cuestión: Más allá de la guerra de divisas

Shahrokh Fardoust's picture
 Photo: istockphoto.com

Muchos observadores predicen que la cumbre del Grupo de los Veinte (G-20) que se lleva a cabo esta semana en Seúl será recordada principalmente como un baile de alta diplomacia destinado a persuadir a sus  miembros para que se abstengan de una devaluación competitiva de sus monedas  y regulen los desequilibrios excesivos en cuenta corriente.

Si la mayoría de los titulares de Seúl se refieren a disputas sobre divisas y a quién pertenece el déficit o superávit más perjudicial, entonces los líderes se habrán malgastado la oportunidad de llegar al fondo de la cuestión.

En efecto, ese resultado sería un revés para los países en desarrollo y afectaría posiblemente la legitimidad del G-20 como agente de inclusión de la cooperación económica y financiera en la economía mundial.
 

Trade, Employment, and Structural Transformation

Margaret McMillan's picture
  Photo: istockphoto.com

There is a shared sense that globalization has a strong potential to contribute to growth and poverty alleviation.  There are several examples of countries in which integration into the world economy was followed by strong growth and a reduction of poverty, but evidence also indicates that trade opening does not automatically engender growth. The question therefore arises, why the effects of globalization have been so different among countries of the world.

A look at changes in the structure of employment in Latin America and in Asia hints at possible explanations for observed differences in the growth effects of trade.  Since the 1980s, Asia and Latin America have both rapidly integrated into the world economy.  Asia has enjoyed rapid employment and productivity growth, but the consequences for Latin America have been less stellar.

The chart below shows how the pattern of structural change has differed in the two continents. The chart decomposes labor productivity growth in the two regions into three components: (i) a “within” component that is the weighted average of labor productivity growth in each sector of the economy; (ii) a “between” component that captures economy-wide gains (or losses) from the reallocation of labor between sectors with differing levels of labor productivity; and (iii) a “cross” component that measures the gains (or losses) from the reallocation of labor to sectors with above-average (below-average) productivity growth.  The underlying data for the charts come from the Groningen Growth and Development Centre.

Getting to the Seoul of the Matter: Moving beyond currency disputes

Shahrokh Fardoust's picture
Photo: www.istockphoto.com

(Also available in Spanish)

Many observers predict that this week’s G-20 Summit in Seoul will be remembered mainly as a dance of high diplomacy aimed at persuading members to refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies and to reign in excessive current account imbalances.

If most headlines from Seoul are about spats over currencies and whose deficit or surplus is most harmful, then leaders  will have missed the Seoul of the Matter.

Indeed, such an outcome would be a setback for developing countries and could potentially erode the legitimacy of the G-20 as an inclusive broker of financial and economic cooperation in the global economy.

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